Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick




Microsoft Patents Choosing 7 Out Of 10 Items To Display

from the display-this dept

theodp writes "So how did the folks at the USPTO see fit to grant eight Microsoft 'inventors' a patent for selecting N items to display from a pool having a number of display items greater than N? Maybe they were too preoccupied with the opening of the new USPTO Employee Art Gallery to give it their full attention." The patent in question only has 3 claims, and it's difficult to see how this concept could possibly be patentable, but luckily for the US Patent Office, it appears that they don't have to bother selecting N patents to approve from a pool having a number of applications greater than N. These days, they'll just approve anything.

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  • identicon
    Morgan Bleck, 21 Dec 2006 @ 2:17am

    Why bother...

    What is the point of even starting a business now adays... EVERYTHNG is pattented... this statment is probably patented somewhere...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tony Fu, 21 Dec 2006 @ 2:34am

    Don't forget that some "genious" claims to have in

    Microsoft probably hired him to write this sequal patent.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Paul OFlaherty, 21 Dec 2006 @ 3:15am

    Whatever happened to prior art?

    Anybody?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Mike S., 21 Dec 2006 @ 5:45am

      Re: Whatever happened to prior art?

      Whatever happened to prior art?

      There was just far too much of it, and they were having a difficult time narrowing down the field because prior to this patent there was just no way.

      My head hurts.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Stephen, 21 Dec 2006 @ 3:27am

    Are you sure your characterization of the patent is correct? It seems a bit more complex than you're making it out to be.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      mkam, 21 Dec 2006 @ 4:06am

      Re:

      I took a quick glace through the patent and it looks like Mike's summary of it is fairly accurate. The only complicated part is them saying that they are using a method of selection that 'normalizes the probability that the items of any one candidate set will be selected in relation to the items of the other candidate sets'.

      So they patented selecting N from N+ using a rand() function. (but on the web so it is patentable)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        chaizzilla, 30 Mar 2007 @ 7:28pm

        Re: Re:

        it's got that little feisty spark of initiative like scalping tickets, especially in sentiment. innovative use of patents to inspire profit from a captive audience. someone out there surely has had the formula in a webby table or google spreadsheet for a while (i mean who hasn't contemplated porting visicalc to dhtml and inventing a non-oop alternative in the process?); if we find them maybe they'd wanna invest some fractional settlement futures in our combo visionary tip & aggresive law team package deal.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Robert Massung, 21 Dec 2006 @ 3:29am

    Did you even read it?

    Did you even read the whole article? It is not just displaying items, it is displaying items in a preset, random, or selected order so not to give some merchants unfair allocation space when consumers are viewing webpages. ie. Go to Amazon, select DVD players and the first 10 players that show on the page are all made by X company. With this procedure, A,B,C,D, and E companies will all have equal chances of getting on the first display page. Now this wouldn't include custom sorts but you get the point. Equal space for vendors. Yes it is a stupid ass patent but someone has to do it. I am sure if you dig deeper there are dumber ones out there.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    The infamous Joe, 21 Dec 2006 @ 4:19am

    Zombies! Run!!

    "it is a stupid ass patent but someone has to do it."

    I think the point is that no one *has* to do it, friend. They do it because this great nation is all about making as much money as possible, no matter who you have to steal from, pressure, or decieve to do it.

    I think all patents should be reset. Anything before now is fair game. Free to the public. Then they can change how patents are handled without worrying about the effect it may have on patents before it. Then they have to make it to where a LAYMAN could use the patent to make/create the item in question. Anything less specific would be thrown out.

    The whole country (sans lawyers and big business) can easily look at this crap and and tell it's a freakin' joke.

    If it's not patents, it's copyrights, or trademarks, or this person sues that person. It's really starting to make me sick-- when did the concept of earning a buck, instead of weaseling it away from people who did earn it, decay away?

    We really should just get all the old men out of power and get the stagnant water flowing again.

    Man, I can see my house from up here on this soapbox.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Richard Ahlquist, 21 Dec 2006 @ 4:46am

    Ok I hate junk patents but..

    While this one sounds somewhat vauge, it sounds like a load balancing method to me which isnt exactly a simple thing like implied. So I'd say this has been grossly oversimplified.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    RedMatrix, 21 Dec 2006 @ 5:36am

    Whatever It Takes

    Whatever It Takes to get on the news...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ScytheNoire, 21 Dec 2006 @ 5:44am

    i don't think you should be allowed to patent things that you cannot show. it's just gotten stupid with the software patents, and the whole system is just broken. they need a whole separate patent office just for software patents, with people who know and understand software.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    knome, 21 Dec 2006 @ 6:26am

    Don't call it sequal.

    It's SQL. Structured Query Language. Not "sequal". That is how you say it, not write it.

    That stated, I agreed that there patent is basically a patent on performing a specific type of query. Here's a quick and obvious implementation. But don't use this! It's apparently patented.

    $sql = ' select distinct products_id , product_name , product_price from ( select distinct manufacturer from ( select product_type from product_types order by rand() limit 5 ) somePTs left join manufacturers_to_product_types MFs on PTs.product_type = MFs.product_type order by rand() limit 5 ) someMFs left join products on MFs.manufacturer_id = products.manufacturer_id order by rand() limit 5 ' ;

    $result = mysql_query( $sql );

    while( $temp = mysql_fetch_array( $res ) )
    print $temp['product_id'] . ' ' . $temp['product_name'] . ' ' . $temp['product_price'] . "n" ;

    This is stupid. These tools were designed to do the exact thing that has been patented.

    They didn't patent a hammer, they patented how to swing it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Dec 2006 @ 7:09am

      Re: Don't call it sequal.

      knome: Since you find it necessary to correct someone else, I thought I'd let you know that in the context of your statement, it is "their" not "there."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Wolfger, 21 Dec 2006 @ 10:07am

        Re: Re: Don't call it sequal.

        Knome and AC: since you both feel the need to nitpick, can I ask why neither one of you picked up on the fact that it's "sequel", not "sequal"?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Nattering Naybob, 21 Dec 2006 @ 9:32pm

          Re: Re: Re: Don't call it sequal.

          Wolfger: This server is in the US, so I'll have to ask you to keep your commas inside the quotation marks. Thanks.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Ben, 21 Dec 2006 @ 10:02am

      Re: Don't call it sequal.

      It's spelled "their" not "there"

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Medezark, 21 Dec 2006 @ 6:40am

    Jiminy, I have a great idea!

    It seems that the reviewers at the USPTO have no clue as to what they're really suppossed to be looking for in these patents, or lack the technical expertise to qualify them to review the patents. Thus, I will submit my patent application for "the application of friction between two substances in order to generate combustion."

    And, judging by the patents that have been awarded and upheld over the last decade or two, it will be awarded.

    And I'll sue you all for patent violation!

    And I'll make the licensing fees so high that I'll either own the world, or drive it back into the stone age when you CAN NO LONGER CREATE OR USE FIRE!

    Or, better yet, "method for extracting bio-nutrients from biomass pulp using enzymatic reduction!" If I repeat the word biomass enough times in one sentence, it'll surely get through the review process.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sanguine Dream, 21 Dec 2006 @ 7:12am

    I don't see how the very concept of selecting N items from a pool of items greater than N is patentable. Now if they were trying to patent a specific method of how N items were selected then I'd have no problem with that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Matthew, 21 Dec 2006 @ 7:15am

    What's worse?

    That it's been 6+ years on the waiting line, or that it took 8 people to "come up" with this "invention?"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Cunk, 21 Dec 2006 @ 7:27am

    Quicktime? Bleh...

    On a side note can the stupid patent office stop using Quicktime to display images? What the hell is that?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Dec 2006 @ 8:08am

    On a side note can the stupid patent office stop using Quicktime to display images? What the hell is that?
    They don't. They use TIFF for their images, and Quicktime has set itself as the default viewer for that file format on your computer. I use the ALTERNATIFF viewer the USPTO recommends, but any time Quicktime updates it hijacks TIFF back again and I have to remove Quicktime from the plugins folder to get ALTERNATIFF going again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Dec 2006 @ 8:32am

      Re:

      "They don't. They use TIFF for their images, and Quicktime has set itself as the default viewer for that file format on your computer. I use the ALTERNATIFF viewer the USPTO recommends, but any time Quicktime updates it hijacks TIFF back again and I have to remove Quicktime from the plugins folder to get ALTERNATIFF going again."

      *sniff* *sniff* .... I smell a new patent in the works!!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    PhysicsGuy, 21 Dec 2006 @ 8:41am

    oh c'mon... if someone can't show prior art on this then i'm giving up on life. i think what it comes down to is the uspto employing semi-retarded people who don't actually understand the patents in question. this is worded so that someone lacking in logic and basic math concepts will not be able to understand. the people down at the uspto probably looked at this, their heads started to throb and they passed it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tin Weasel, 21 Dec 2006 @ 10:41pm

    Why they do it

    I haven't read the patent but...

    It seems likely to me that many companies patent stupid ideas not because they wish to stop other people using them (if the ideas are that dumb they won't hold up to a legal challenge anyway), but because they want to use the ideas without being subjected to frivolous lawsuits by other companies/individuals who do apply for the patent.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ballA, 22 Dec 2006 @ 6:35am

    yeah boi

    they be doin dis to make sure they got money in the bank and so when they is all up in there they wont be gettin fronted from them lawyers
    they be hatin all over this shit and so they needs to stop frontin

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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